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Posts Tagged ‘Xsardis’

It is graduation day. Finally, I’m a college graduate.

I have been having a lot of flashbacks from different points in my college career, and as I promised you around New Years here is some self-reflection. My mom’s verse for me is Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect,<sup class=”crossreference” value='(W)’> but I press on to take hold<sup class=”crossreference” value='(X)’> of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Nothing much sums up my life better than that. College really began in high school, when I took a few classes at local colleges. I learned then that I was not as outmatched by the big, broad world of adulthood as I had thought I was. I was still a bit of an introvert. And I spent every spare moment of that senior year writing or thinking about writing. It was the year I published Issym. And then I made the very logical decision to go to school for a business major.

Honestly, I don’t know that I would have gone to college if I had not started with a Business/Bible degree. It was the Bible degree that pushed me to head to South Carolina for college, stepping out of Maine, the only home I had ever known. I will never regret my one semester at Bible College. It was my chance to be a real student, to write on the side, to live boldly, to make friends, to feel warm everyday. I enjoyed Chick-Fil-A for the first time; I learned how to drive on a six lane highway; I discovered the value of coffee with the girls. Very importantly, the time at college granted me a deeper foundation of Bible knowledge and exposer to different chapel speakers and their ideas. I discovered that home could be found anywhere, even in the sweltering south. I made good friends that semester; not one of them lasted as more than a ‘Facebook friend’, which was okay too. Life is funny like that. What I desperately want to be permanent sometimes only lasts for a season. But oh, what a season! One must embrace moments. You do not reject summer because it cannot last.

My description of that semester at Columbia International University (CIU) would be incomplete if I did admit how very near death I seemed one fateful night when the chest pains I had been experiencing all semester surged to a new high. After not leaving my dorm room for a week, I was rushed home to Maine and admitted to the ER. I did homework in my hospital room, searching for the feeling of normality and holding onto hope that I would be able to go back to college. I remember being amazed how my heart (we had a special scan run) looked like an angry Muppet and how one floor of the hospital had the overwhelming smell of coffee. What was then diagnosed (although falsely so) as costochondritus allowed me to get on my feet, slowly. I discovered rest–pure rest–was about all I could do for myself. Somehow, through it all, I made it to the release of my second book, Asandra. That accomplishment may be my proudest because of how many obstacles seemed to get in the way. It was also the book where I learned how to be honest with readers, how to show them my heart. The reception was phenomenal. That semester I learned in a new way how true 2nd Corinthians 12:9 is, “But he said to me, ‘My grace<sup class=”crossreference” value='(P)’> is sufficient for you, for my power<sup class=”crossreference” value='(Q)’> is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” So I boast in Christ’s strength. I am full of weakness; He is not.

The fateful events that haunted me near Thanksgiving break led me on a journey back to Maine. At the time it felt like failure to leave my new home and head to my old one, to move back in with my parents, to have them carry my laundry, to barely drag myself to school every day. I was proud that I had finished the semester at CIU, but I knew that there would be no quality of life if I stayed in South Carolina. I could not have anticipated how good home would feel, how important it would be for me to work alongside Maine Bible Quizzing as a worship leader (for a pretty crazy crew of adults and teens), to participate in my nephew’s lives, to see my sister’s new home the day she bought it, and to take my place in so many little things. No, I have no regrets about coming home. Who knew then that what had been misdiagnosed as costochondritus would later give credence to my Lyme diagnosis as we came to understand just was really going on inside me. I could not understand during my semester at Husson University in Maine why I was not getting better from the supposedly curable costochondritus. So as my business grew and had me traveling, and when the opportunity for online college came along, I jumped at the chance.

I transferred to Nyack College where I completed my degree just today. The program was still business, but its title was ‘Organizational Management’. I think I had expected to be less of a guinea pig (I was in one of the first primarily online OM programs at Nyack), but all-in-all, I graduated and that is what is important. I published another book, the best yet (Xsardis). I invested in my home and family. I found an impact zone in Maine and outside, as  I began book touring. While I had lots of fun with friends in Virginia and met some awesome people at Soulfest, probably my favorite trip of the year was Ohio. The people I spoke with (young and old) and the reception I received was astounding and memorable.

During this last year of college I have learned more about myself than I thought possible. In understanding Lyme and what was going on in my body; in accepting whatever the outcome of my health is; in participating with friends and family; in investing in home and accepting the value of seasons that come and go; in traveling; in speaking; in writing; in worshiping God and writing songs; in choosing joy and peace; in seeking God’s will for my future; in meeting some very remarkable people that had a big impact on my life, I have discovered a fuller, deeper life. From uncovering my desire for coffee shops, to my love of Lindsey Sterling fiddle music, to my happy-place by my sister’s side, to the charm of dancing in my father’s arm, to the merit of playing guitar in an empty house, I have grown to understand a bit more of who God made me to be. I have learned that I love mentorship and so am working on mentorship programs with students. I have learned what I want to write about; who I want to be; and why it is so very important to live as God has called us to live.

So what’s next for me? Lots of family-time and reading by the fireside in the coming month. Part of my Lyme treatment is a doctor’s order for rest and that’s what I will be focusing on as much as possible. I head to the road in March to catch up with friends I have not had the time to see. I am highly motivated to work on my already-drafted novel, Mark of Orion, that has captivated my heart and my imagination. I plan to write/publish/and speak for six months as I look at buying my own printing equipment and try to gage how far I am from making a living based on my writing career. Whatever adventures come next, be they in this state or another, I will carry with me the lessons learned of joy and peace and seasons and the beauty of God’s majestic plan for my life and this world. I look forward to following where my Lord leads. The purpose of my life is to go where He sends me, to share His goodness with the world, to grow to know Him and love Him better. As my graduation verse, Ephesians 2:10, says, “For we are God’s workmanship,<sup class=”crossreference” value='(U)’> created<sup class=”crossreference” value='(V)’> in Christ Jesus to do good works,<sup class=”crossreference” value='(W)’> which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

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Yesterday, I described the importance of epilogues. Now let me explain how I have applied the theory in my own series.

In my epilogues, I did not need to tell a complete story, explain character development, or give a summary of what had happened. All I needed to do was hint to readers what might come next and leave a distinct emotion in the their minds.

So when I closed off my series (with Xsardis) I wanted to leave the readers with the emotion of hope and the idea that life would go on. To do this, I exchanged a few words between the main story-tellers of my series–Joppa and Reesthma–as Joppa died. The death told that the series was really ending. It gave an emotion of completion. At the same time, I reintroduced a character readers thought was dead. This gave the idea of continuing life, hope, and rebirth. The last is especially potent since my company is ‘REBRITH Publishing.’

The simple scene (with both death and life) symbolized that while the future of the kingdom would doubtless have struggles, it would also see bright days. It took only a few paragraphs, but it left readers feeling finished. I have heard much positive feedback about how important that ending scene was.

But here is another thing to glean from that particular epilogue: the book and series would still have been finished if no one read the epilogue. The epilogue added value, but it did not need to be there. I had answered every significant question, brought the characters to a close, and tied up lose ends, long before I reached my epilogue.

In further posts, we will apply these basic principles. Keep checking back.

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Continuing our theme of introductions, let us talk about The Backstory Introduction.

There is nothing quite so powerful as a story. A well-told backstory is especially strong. While there are different types of backstories, a general rule is that it should allude to a lifetime of information and character development without taking up pages and pages.

The character backstory describes a specific event (likely traumatic) in the main character or hero’s life. This gives the reader perspective, from the beginning, on why the character is the way he is. It can be helpful when the character is tough and unlikeable. Similarly, when the story is set in the past, the character backstory can set the stage with political and geographical facts. Examples might be the car crash of the detective’s wife or the day his daughter was born. Seeing how he handles pressure in the first scene and how his family is (or is not) his priority in the second tells the reader big things about the character.

The legend backstory is what I used for each book in The Xsardis Chronicles. It alluded to the moral of the story; it told of the past heroes of Xsardis; it gave the land depth and history; and it showed some principles about my world that it would have been hard to otherwise detail. It also set the field as a medieval world, despite the fact that my first chapter would open on Earth.

The historical backstory can be real or imagined. It will tell of an event that happened before the story took place. It will not follow any living characters on which the book focuses–although it might incorporate deceased relatives. This is useful for treasure hunting tales and stories that need to incorporate background information that the narrator of the tale does not know.

These are three common backstory introductions. They each take on a unique shape; and they each borrow from each other. Here are some cautions when using them. 1. They can be boring–especially the legend backstory. What you find interesting about battles and lore may completely bore the reader. And since your introduction is at the beginning of your book, this can stop a reader before she even gives you a real chance. So be careful. How? Ask readers’ opinions and (like with the foreshadow introduction) be willing to cut your intro. Also frame the story with something interesting. The introductions of Issym, Asandra, and Xsardis were narrated by Reesthma and Joppa, who told their tales while adventure and death crouched at their door. This added drama to the story. 2. Accuracy can be hard to maintain. Every introduction you write sets the stage for the rest of your book. Maintaining the integrity of your book in this context–which is removed from the rest of your book–can be a challenge. Spend time and painstakingly be sure that every fact you share in the intro is accurate Look ahead to what books will come next in your series. Does this information still fit? 3. Brevity is an author’s virtue. Introductions tend to lag on. No matter how interesting your backstory, it is NOT the story. Readers want to get something from the backstory, then get to the real tale. So keep it short. A well-told, short backstory has every possibility to endear your reader, make them love your style, give your story and your world depth, and excite the whole book. A long and/or boring tale will do just the opposite. It’s the kiss of death.

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Puzzles… For the record, I am no good at puzzles. I guess it is one of those things that you need to practice at, but I have no natural talent and no experience. So when I picked out a murder-mystery puzzle for my New Years Eve party, I had high hopes my guests would stay around, be excellent puzzle-doers, and put it together before they left. The best laid plans of mice and men… Little did I realize that two five hundred piece puzzles put in the same box without a picture to work off would be difficult. The day after the party, my one remaining guest and I and my mother worked on the puzzle until 3pm to finally completed it and solved the puzzle. So next year at the party… no puzzle. But I’ll certainly host another party.

It was a blast to see old friends, play games, laugh, eat, and toast the New Year. I am amazed that complete strangers shared with each other what they wanted out of the New Year. Most of our answers were pretty deep. Not athletic commitments we knew we would give up on. Instead, we had internal goals of discovering God and learning how to use our time. I love my friends. Those resolutions are the ones that matter. Life never turns out quite how we think it will, but growing towards God is always a needed resolution.

Looking back… well a lot has changed since last January. I recorded my first CD, went on two major book tours, met some people who changed my life, and discovered I had Lyme and Babesiousis. Those are events. The real changes happened beneath the skin, where I learned the meaning of peace and the value of rest. I think I’ll save most of the internal reflection until February when I graduate. But I can easily remark that God has taught me much, taken me on new adventures, showed me good people, and taught me that seasons come and go but He is constant. Hallelujah. As I close on chapter (or one volume) of my life, I can look to the future and say (as the people of Xsardis do) with confidence “Kiash”.

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Creating unique characters is a really good thing for a writer to do. We all know that. Those characters are often what make us fall in love with a series. This is proven in books like Artemis Fowl (where a 12-year-old criminal mastermind was a character people loved to watch) and Percy Jackson (where a demi-god with some small disorders, a simple wit, and a devotion to doing right pulled readers in). But such characters generate their own problems.

I have this character in my new novel and she has a creative background that makes her a loner. Now, I love how distinctive she feels. But how do you write about a loner? How do you have her interact at all with your other characters? You have to create a believable reason that would draw her into the company of others (and keep it unique). You cannot place a loner in a group for no reason. Writers like designing ‘tough-guy’ characters, but we do not always follow through on logical reasons for them to utilize the help of others. Let’s talk about such contradictions for a moment, and how to do them right. Because contradictions can be very alluring in novels (take the above examples of Fowl and Jackson).

InXsardis my character Vaylynne was a rebel working with the royal family. A rebel working with royals? People could believe it because of how it happened. It was not an instantaneous decision. There was a dramatic enough event to pull her skills into service, but even then she secretly worked against the royals for most of the book. This gradual change could be followed and readers could route against her in the beginning and for her in the end without too much of a stretch in their reality-based minds. Let’s face it, writers rarely have reality-based minds. Our imaginations float to the clouds until anything seems possible. This is why we hire editors or assistants: to bring us back to planet Earth.

Here is the thing to remember. The more unique your character, the greater the challenges. Just be sure to generate a situation or a logical progression that allows readers to really buy the decisions your character makes. Otherwise, their uniqueness will fade away as disbelief fills the reader’s mind.

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My least favorite number is the number 8. You may be thinking: New York has already destroyed what brain cells she had. Why is she blogging about something so random?

No, NY is wonderful. My drive yesterday was mostly uneventful and I made excellent time. I had pretzels and a frappuccino for lunch (random, yes; yummy, yes) and made it to the college (where my sis works) around 2:30. I hugged her, got the key, and realized that five and a half hours of sleep to 7 hours of driving was a bad ratio. Desperate for real food, I found my way to the large Palisades Mall.

That place has many memories. The Bible Quizzing group I love used to go there every year on our way to the Regional Tournament. I have been many more times with my family now that Julie lives so close. But yesterday was the first time I had been there by myself. Driving on my own, moving about NY on my own (added to the Xsardis series closing) has made me realize that I am not fourteen any longer. Big, I know.

I was too tired from editing all day Sunday and driving Monday to work when I got back from the Palisades. That leaves me with approximately 2 and a half days to do what would make one week hectic. But I know God has the timetables worked out. The projects I have left have been going much more speedily than I anticipated.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to connect to the internet my sister’s place. I set out to find somewhere with internet. Stressful! But with help from my mother who knows the area very well after all the visits to Julie, I made it to a Dunkin Donuts. I have been drinking my hot apple cider as I flip through the old books (pulling from both the printed and electronic copies), write notes, make phone calls, use the internet, and format Xsardis. This blog is the least-publishing related thing I have done since I got here.

The number 8… I didn’t forget. 8 is the number of lines between the top of the page and the chapter number. Eight is the number of lines between the chapter number and the opening sentence. Almost as evil is the number 3. 3 lines go between each section. I continually return to the document with my artistic scrolls for the chapter number and section breaks, then adjust size and lines and font type (oh, and the page break is being absolutely evil so I’m having to redo that). And don’t forget that the chapters have to start on an odd number page. Wait a minute, you missed a scroll and you have to make sure everything still fits! Ah.

As boring and time consuming as it sounds, it is actually a pretty good project. I get to put the finishing touches on a manuscript I love. These are the changes that let the rest of the world love it too (since they won’t get distracted by random page orientation and such). I like artistic projects; I just don’t like repetitive artistic projects, where you do the same thing again and again for 38 chapters…

For the fans out there: prepare for a thicker book. I had to shrink the font size because the manuscript was too many pages and it will still be the longest yet. I think you will like it!

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Today we finished up Xsardis’ cover. What a thrill! We rushed the project a little in order to get an advertising poster in time for this weekend’s Octoberfest in Downtown, Bangor, where I have the opportunity to sell books. This is the same time as the Bangor Book Fest so the timing could not be better.

Ande Binan, illustrator extraordinaire, also showed me what he could do if I decided to reprint Issym with a cover more in keeping with the other two. I staggered backwards when I saw it. I won’t tell you much about it, because I can’t wait to show it to you in print, but he used a picture of a girl who looks exactly like I would have pictured Rachel (complete with her character expressed in the art!). To see for the first time my character come to life was incredible.

And the recent editing bloopers are:

You put a skirt on a continent?

How do you spell that?: T. H. A. T.   ~ Ug!

I think you need a chicken in this story.

“His focused waned” (said the story). “It could be because of his own stench” (said the editor).

Why did coloring help her use a slingshot?

Doesn’t this person have a name? Call him a small elephant if you want, but give him a name! ~And the jibe has grown to ‘baby elephant’. Thus, the joke goes that every time we’re not sure what adjective or noun or verb to use, we substitute ‘baby elephant’.

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